Zonare begins shipping convertible ultrasound system

May 2, 2005

Zonare Medical Systems has begun shipping its z.one convertible, an ultrasound system that converts from a full-featured cart-based midtier system to a compact unit.

Zonare Medical Systems has begun shipping its z.one convertible, an ultrasound system that converts from a full-featured cart-based midtier system to a compact unit.

Six convertibles are operating at sites in the U.S. Another 20 are in place elsewhere.

The product is the culmination of six years of research and development. The company unveiled z.one convertible during the 2004 RSNA meeting, some 15 months after receiving FDA 510(k) clearance.

"We designed a really different ultrasound device," said Mark Miller, vice president of sales and marketing for the Mountain View, CA, company.

The system is built on "zone sonography technology," which calls for the acquisition of data in several large zones rather than in many narrow lines. This approach permits rapid image storage, processing, and display, according to the company, which was established in 1999.

In conventional ultrasound, lines are formed by summing together the contributions of all the channels in the transducer. The original channel data are then discarded.

The z.one system, however, aggregates the original channel data and stores the information in channel domain memory. The echo information is then used in channel domain processing to form the image. Retaining all of the original raw data provides greater options for image postprocessing.

Also novel is the system's convertibility, which is made possible by its unusual design.

"There are other compact systems," Miller said. "But they are small in nature, and the user interface is small. You have a small keyboard with small keys, which are difficult for the sonographer to use all day long. We have a full-size keyboard that is used most of the time. However, the scan engine can be popped out, allowing the user to take a five-and-a-half-pound package along with the transducer and run it off batteries."

The benefit is both portability and a likely reduction in repetitive stress injuries, Miller said.

The cart-based system weighs about 170 pounds, far less than most high-end and upper midrange systems. It sells for between $60,000 and $80,000 and is being marketed to radiology departments, vascular labs, and emergency departments through the company's 10-person U.S. direct sales force and a dealer distributor network outside the U.S. More distributors will be added over the next six months, Miller said.

"It isn't a superpremium system. We call it a compact premium," Miller said. "We're under $100,000, but we perform similar to how a $100,000 system might perform."

The z.one's primary applications include abdominal, ob/gyn, small parts, and vascular.

Company executives hope to sell up to 200 systems in the U.S. and another 200 in other countries during the next year.